Society of St Vincent de Paul

The Society of St Vincent de Paul was founded in Paris in 1833 by Frederic Ozanam and a few of his fellow students at the Sorbonne. At a time of social upheaval and distress Ozanam started the work of practical help for those in poverty, following the tradition of the sixteenth-century Catholic saint. The Society spread throughout the world, finally operating in 130 countries succouring the needy, sheltering the homeless and easing the hardships of the destitute, the disabled and, particularly in modern times, the addicted.

The Society came to Tasmania in 1898 when high unemployment and low wages had brought 'a harsh period for the poor', and existing charities and benevolent societies in Hobart and Launceston were severely overstressed. In addition to the traditional work of almoning, counselling and visiting, the Society has special enterprises in Tasmania: a recycling centre; three industries which employ handicapped persons; a shelter for homeless men; Loui's food van; a nursing home in Ulverstone; and thirty 'shops' where donated clothes and household items are sold to the public. The Society is wholly dependent on its volunteers. Of about 1250 state wide, 590 work in these shops, providing a service while obtaining the funds needed to continue the charitable work.

Further reading and references: JC Brown, "Poverty is not a Crime", Hobart 1972; www.vinnies.org.au; St Vincent de Paul Society (Tasmania) Annual Report 20022003.

Jeff Ransley